Clue is a game of deduction where everyone plays as a detective trying to solve the murder of Mr. Boddy. Each player gets a set of clues and they postulate who committed the murder, where, and with what weapon, while the other players provide a piece of evidence against the suggestion. Whoever thinks they know the solution to the murder gives their accusation and then checks the answers, winning if they are correct and losing otherwise. And you’re playing it inefficiently.
The game of Clue comes with sheets like the one on the right, listing the six people, six weapons, and nine rooms that could be involved in the murder. The first step is crossing out the clues you have, because you know those rooms, people, and weapons could not be used in the murder. As the game progresses and you make suggestions, you gain more evidence and cross out more possibilities. Sometimes you get lucky and suggest something that no one can deny, giving you direct insight into the murder, while other times you can discover information through a process of elimination.
The basic process is very simple, and I’ve provided a sample below. On the left I’ve crossed out my own cards and then whatever cards I’ve seen throughout the game, and I’ve also discovered that Colonel Mustard is the murder (I suggested that Colonel Mustard used the Knife in the Kitchen and no one could deny it). Further, I could check off the Rope as the murder weapon, as I know that’s the only remaining weapon. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about the room, so I have to do more research there.
On the right, I’ve replaced the marks with letters denoting who provided the information. T is for Travis and E is for Envelope (we keep the answer inside an envelope), while C and J are for the other people playing. This lets me keep track of who has what cards and then I can focus on one person at a time, which can be a fast method of getting information. It’s a small improvement, but useful when you’re playing with more than one person.
This was alright for a while, but I knew it wasn’t perfect. Every once in a while someone else would make a suggest that no one could deny, and there’d be a lot of excitement at the table. But what did they find out? I’d put stars by the three things mentioned, then try to eliminate some of them as time went on, eventually discovering the same piece of information. It was a clunky system, and I was ready to take it to the next level: I designed my own sheet.
In the top left of the sheet I had a place for player names, a letter to represent them, and the number of cards they had. Below was the standard card table with convenient short forms and a place to write the player who had that card. At the bottom was a table for what I knew about the murder; even though this information was available above, it was helpful to have it repeated in isolation.
The most important part was the large table on the right, listing all the guesses made throughout the game. The first column is for the person asking the question and last column is for who answers them. The person, weapon, and room columns all work the same: you write down the card code in the left part and the person who has the card on the right. I’ve given an example below:
Here the accusation is “Miss Scarlet, in the Conservatory, with the Lead Pipe.” We can see that two of the cards are accounted for, but we don’t know who has the Conservatory. Yet, we know that the person who answered doesn’t have Miss Scarlet or the Lead Pipe, so we’ve discovered that they have the Conservatory, something we didn’t know before.
Now yes, this could have been done with the old system, but let’s say that we didn’t know who had Miss Scarlet on this turn. Later on we discover that J has it and then go back to turn 9 and input it, thus finding out who has the Conservatory. Clearly having this additional information is very useful, but we can do even more. After using this sheet for a few games, I added in additional improvements and optimized the sheet for three people (I’ve been play testing with three people).
First, I added another column to the right of the question table for the card that was shown so I can easily see what I’ve deduced. Second, I replaced the number of cards each person has with a countdown list, so I can keep track of how many cards I’ve seen from each person (the questions you ask change significantly when you know someone’s entire hand). Third, I wanted an easy way to keep track of which cards I’ve shown to each person so I can keep part of my hand hidden from everyone, so I included a table for that on the left. Finally, I added two additional columns to the standard card tracking table, one for each of the other players. These columns allow me to track who doesn’t have a card, and sometimes determine which cards are hidden just by who passes to certain questions.
This last addition is the hardest to understand, so here’s an example. It’s the very first turn and I suggest that Mr. Green used the Revolver in the Billiard Room. J is the first to answer but passes and C shows me the Revolver. Since J passed and I didn’t have any of the three cards, I know that J doesn’t have Mr. Green or the Billiard Room, so I cross out those squares in her column. Later on, J suggests that Professor Plum used the Lead Pipe in the Billiard Room. C passes and I have both Professor Plum and the Lead Pipe, so I show one of those to J. As a bonus though, I know that C doesn’t have the Billiard Room, so I cross that square out in her column as well, meaning that the Billiard Room is one of the three hidden cards. Just like that, I’ve solved the mystery!
Throughout all of this we’ve been talking about how I’ve upgraded my game through these sheets, but as soon as I did that it everyone else wanted the new sheets. Stepping up my game meant that everyone else rose to the challenge, and now I had a lot more to defend against. I’m going to leave advanced tactics until later, but here are a few quick points:
If you’re smart, so are your opponents: The first time everyone used the sheets, I was amazed by how much smarter we were playing. At the end of the game, everyone was within one card of having the answer and I was impressed to hear the logic they used to figure things out. Yes, I shouldn’t be surprised the sheets helped them play better, but I was pleased with how much closer the matches were.
The sheet is only as good as your copying skills: Especially in the question table, you have to continuously update fields with the information you learn. Did you just figure out who had Mrs. White? Go back through all the questions and see if that helps you deduce something else. Did someone just pass on a suggestion? Check if that tells you about what’s hidden. Did you just find out all of someone’s cards? Quickly cross out their entire column in the card table and that can help you solve the case.
The bluff: While the game requires you to show the cards you’re asked for, people can still bluff. For example, someone can ask a question involving three of their cards, and once everyone passes it might seem like the person just figured something out, when they’re actually bluffing you. This is incredibly effective against these new sheets because you’re keeping track of everything. Use this tactic wisely and sparingly; you’re also telling your opponents that neither of them have those three cards, so they’ve learnt a lot for free.
The slow down: I kept track of my most recent game where everyone had the sheets and it lasted 48 minutes and had 22 questions. This means that though we’re playing smarter, we’re playing slower. Keep this in mind when using the sheets for the first time.
Clue is a complex game of deduction, and so much is lost with the old sheets. I’ve created a new sheet optimized for three people and the PDF is here. For a real challenge, give them to your opponents as well and get ready for a lot more detective work. If you have any suggestions regarding the new sheets, let me know.